English Premier League: EPL Week 24 Previews and Predictions

Thomas AtzenhofferCorrespondent IIFebruary 2, 2012

English Premier League: EPL Week 24 Previews and Predictions

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    Another match day has come and gone with the 23rd round of the EPL being played out during the middle of the week, and we now look on to match day 24 in just another 48 hours.

    The mid-week games saw some surprises as Everton shocked Manchester City with a 1-0 victory at Goodison Park thanks to a second-half strike from Darron Gibson, who became an instant hero for his old club Manchester United.

    Sir Alex Ferguson's Red Devils won against a poor Stoke City side, even with 13 players on their roster injured, and were able to draw level at the top of the table.

    Tottenham also was allowed to gain ground as a Gareth Bale brace led the way for a 3-1 victory over Wigan Athletic.

    Chelsea and Arsenal both slumped to draws, and Swansea City could have beaten the Blues if their finishing had been better in the first half and a late Neil Taylor own goal in stoppage time had not allowed the London side to escape with a point.

    Arsene Wenger's side likewise were poor. They finished with a 0-0 draw to Bolton at the Reebok.

    The faltering of Chelsea allowed both Newcastle United and Liverpool to gain ground. The Magpies knocked off Blackburn Rovers for the second time in five matches. And the Reds beat Wolves away, as Andy Carroll got on the score sheet and Dirk Kuyt scored his 50th EPL goal.

    Sunderland looked impressive, moving to eighth in the table just over a month after Martin O'Neil's arrival, taking down Norwich City 3-0 at the Stadium of Light.

    Djibril Cisse debuted with a goal in his first 20 minutes back in England with QPR, but Rangers were unable to complete their victory over Aston Villa, as Alex McLeish inspired his team to come back from 0-2 down and take a point 2-2.

    Lastly, Clint Dempsey scored his 16th goal of the season for Fulham. The American will be looking at a lot of interest in him come summer time if he keeps this up. The Cottagers drew 1-1.

    This week we see the top clubs in some more interesting match ups. Manchester United travel to Stamford Bridge, and Tottenham head to Liverpool. Manchester City host Fulham, who were the first club to earn any points off of them in this campaign back in September of 2011.

Arsenal vs. Blackburn Rovers

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    Arsenal slumped to a 0-0 draw at the Reebok against Bolton Wanderers in midweek and will be seeking to atone for their poor display against Blackburn Rovers at the Emirates Stadium.

    Bolton have stolen four points from big clubs in their last two Reebok outings with a victory over Liverpool and their draw against Arsenal.

    Blackburn are always a wild card, and they could come out firing and knock the Gunners right back out, or they could give up a 0-5 disaster for themselves. There truly is no way to know what to expect from Steve Kean's men.

    Match Prediction: Arsenal 2 - 1 Blackburn Rovers

    Predicted Arsenal Starting XI: Wojciech Szczęsny, Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker, Thomas Vermaelen, Bacary Sagna, Mikel Arteta, Alex Song, Aaron Ramsey, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Robin van Persie, Theo Walcott

    Predicted Blackburn Rovers Starting XI: Paul Robinson, Bradley Orr, Chris Samba, Scott Dann, Martin Olsson, Steven Nzonzi, David Dunn, David Hoillet, Morten Gamst Pederson, David Goodwille, Anthony Modeste

    Players to Watch: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Anthony Modeste

Norwich City vs. Bolton Wanderers

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    Norwich failed to impress in what was a brutally poor performance against Sunderland in midweek.

    Paul Lambert will be looking to bounce back at Carrow Road when the Canaries welcome Bolton Wanderers to what they hope will be a home victory.

    However, Wanderers have been impressive since the departure of Gary Cahill to Chelsea, and have beaten Liverpool and drawn Arsenal in their last games.

    Match Prediction: Norwich City 3 - 1 Bolton

    Predicted Norwich City Starting XI: John Ruddy, Russell Martin, Zak Whitbread, Daniel Ayala, Kyle Naughton, Andrew Crofts, Bradley Johnson, Wesley Hoolahan, Andrew Surman, Grant Holt, Steve Morison

    Predicted Bolton Wanderers Starting XI: Jussi Jaaskelainen, Samuel Ricketts, David Wheater, Zat Knight, Gretar Rafn Steinsson, Fabrice Muamba, Martin Petrov, Mark Davies, Nigel Reo-Coker, Chris Eagles, Kevin Davies

    Players to Watch: Grant Holt and Chris Eagles

Queens Park Rangers vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers

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    Mark Hughes has Queens Park Rangers on the up, and new signing Djibril Cisse wasted no time as he got on the score sheet in the opening 30 minutes to score in his QPR debut.

    Bobby Zamora is likely to make his first start for Rangers when they host Wolverhampton this weekend at Loftus Road.

    Wolves were hammered by Liverpool at home suffering a 0-3 defeat in front of their fans, and they continue to have problems in their back line. The loan addition of Sebastian Bassong from Tottenham should help to alleviate some of that problem.

    Match Prediction: QPR 2 - 1 Wolves

    Predicted Queens Park Rangers Starting XI: Patrick Kenny, Luke Young, Anton Ferdinand, Nedum Onuoha, Taye Taiwo, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Jaime Mackie, Joey Barton, Shaun Derry, Djibril Cisse, Bobby Zamora

    Predicted Wolverhampton Wanderers Starting XI: Wayne Hennessey, Stephen Ward, Sebastian Bassong, Roger Johnson, Emmanuel Frimpong, David Edwards, Stephen Hunt, Karl Henry, Matt Jarvis, Kevin Doyle, Steven Fletcher

    Players to Watch: Djibril Cisse and Steven Fletcher

Stoke City vs. Sunderland

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    Stoke City had their best chance to take three points from Manchester United at Old Trafford in a long time during midweek, and they squandered their chances with a terrible showing away from home.

    The Britannia is hoped to be a better ground for them when they face a Sunderland squad that has been in fine form since the arrival of Martin O'Neal to Wearside.

    Frazier Campbell welcomed himself back to the Stadium of Light with a magnificent effort against Norwich City, and it should prove to be a welcome addition to have him back full time.

    Loan arrivals of Wayne Bridge from Manchester City and former Liverpool centerhalf Sotirios Kyrgiakos should make a slight difference at the back and give them a better aerial threat from corner kicks thanks to the Greek.

    Match Prediction: Stoke City 1 - 2 Sunderland

    Predicted Stoke City Starting XI: Thomas Sorenson, Jonathan Woodgate, Robert Huth, Ryan Shawcross, Marc Wilson, Jermaine Pennant, Ryan Shotton, Dean Whitehead, Matthew Etherington, Peter Crouch, Jonathan Walters

    Predicted Sunderland Starting XI: Simon Minoglet, John O'Shea, Michael Turner, Sotirios Krygiakos, Wayne Bridge, Kieran Richardson, Sebastian Larsson, Craig Gardner, James McClean, Stephane Sessegnon, Frazier Campbell

    Players to Watch: Jonathan Walters and Frazier Campbell

West Bromwich Albion vs. Swansea City

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    West Bromwich Albion inked a deadline-day deal for Birmingham FC defender Liam Ridgewell, and he should be in line to start his first match for new boss Roy Hodgson.

    The Baggies have had a horrible injury problem in their midfield, but are slowly coming back to health.

    Swansea City, on the other hand, have been on top form and deserved three points against Chelsea in midweek, but were struck down due to a 93rd minute own goal that ruined their night—truly giving them the Blues.

    Match Prediction: WBA 1 - 3 Swansea City

    Predicted West Bromwich Albion Starting XI: Ben Foster, Nicky Shorey, Jonas Olsson, Liam Ridgewell, Billy Jones, Yousuff Mulumbu, Graham Dorrans, James Morrison, Billy Cox, Marc-Antoine Fortune, Peter Odemwingie

    Predicted Swansea City Starting XI: Michel Vorm, Angel Ranger, Steven Caulker, Ashley Williams, Neil Taylor, Mark Gower, Leon Britton, Luke More, Joe Allen, Danny Graham, Scott Sinclair

    Players to Watch: Peter Odemwingie and Scott Sinclair

Wigan Athletic vs. Everton

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    Wigan look more and more set for a return to the Championship, as the optimism of manager Roberto Martinez can only go so far. The plain fact of the matter is that the club have lost the majority of their talent in the last 18 months and are truly just not good enough.

    Everton, on the other hand, had perhaps the best transfer window of any EPL club, and the benefits have already started to show.

    Landon Donovan has four assists in seven games. Darron Gibson scored the goal to beat Manchester City, and Nikica Jelavic and Steven Pienaar are yet to even make their debuts.

    Match Prediction: Wigan 0 - 2 Everton

    Predicted Wigan Athletic Starting XI: Ali Al Habsi, Maynor Figueroa, Gary Caldwell, Anton Alvarez,  Ronnie Stam, David Jones, James McCarthy, Jordi Gomez, Ben Watson, Victor Moses, Hugo Rodallega

    Predicted Everton Starting XI: Tim Howard, Tony Hibbert, John Heitinga, Phil Neville, Leighton Baines, Marouane Fellaini, Darren Gibson, Royston Drenthe, Landon Donovan, Tim Cahill, Nikica Jelavic

    Players to Watch: Victor Moses and Nikica Jelavic

Manchester City vs. Fulham

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    Manchester City were shocked by former Manchester United midfielder Darron Gibson, who scored a 60th-minute goal to give Everton a much-deserved victory over the table toppers.

    The Citizens have been in poor shape since the departure of Yaya Toure to the African Cup of Nations, and there is growing concern that they are falling out of form at the worst possible time.

    Fulham were the first club to take points off of City in the campaign when they stormed back from 0-2 down to draw at Craven Cottage 2-2, and with their current form they could swipe another point at the Etihad.

    Clint Dempsey is expected to be the most dangerous. He now has 16 goals for the Cottagers this season.

    Match Prediction: Manchester City 2 - 2 Fulham

    Predicted Manchester City Starting XI: Joe Hart, Pablo Zabaleta, Micah Richards, Joleon Lescott, Gael Clichy, Gareth Barry, James Milner, Samir Nasri, David Silva, Eden Dzeko, Sergio Aguero

    Predicted Fulham Starting XI: David Stockdale, Stephen Kelly, Brede Hangeland, Philippe Senderos, John Arne Riise, Danny Murphy, Simon Davies, Clint Dempsey, Bryan Ruiz, Andrew Johnson, Pavel Pogrebnyak

    Players to Watch: Sergio Aguero and Clint Dempsey

Newcastle United vs. Aston Villa

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    Newcastle United are finding their way back to form after they lost their last two matches to Fulham and then Brighton & Hove Albion in the FA Cup.

    Their second victory over Blackburn Rovers in five games came last night in a 2-0 win at Ewood Park, as Steve Kean's side could not mount enough of an attack to break through the defense of Alan Pardew's Magpies.

    The Geordie faithful will be on hand hoping to see them draw level or stay on pace with Chelsea as they chase the fourth Champions League place. However, Yohan Cabaye's three-match ban sees him miss his second match now.

    Aston Villa fought back against Queens Park Rangers to secure a 2-2 draw at Villa Park, but the Darren Bent/Robbie Keane strike force's days are numbered, as Keane will have to return to the LA Galaxy for MLS spring training.

    Match Prediction: Newcastle 2 - 2 Aston Villa

    Predicted Newcastle United Starting XI: Tim Krul, Davide Santos, Michael Williamson, Fabricio Coloccini, Ryan Taylor, Gabriel Obertan, Danny Guthrie, Jonas Gutierrez, Hatem Ben Arfa, Shola Ameobi, Leon Best

    Predicted Aston Villa Starting XI: Shay Given, Alan Hutton, Carlos Cuellar, Richard Dunne, Stephen Warnock, Ciaran Clark, Stephen Ireland, Stiliyan Petrov, Charles N'Zogbia, Darren Bent, Robbie Keane

    Players to Watch: Leon Best and Darren Bent

Chelsea vs. Manchester United

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    Chelsea avoided a loss to Swansea only thanks to a late own goal. All in all the Swans should have stolen three points from Andre Villas-Boas and the Blues, as they continue to play poor football.

    Manchester United took a 2-0 victory over Stoke City, who should have had a right good go at United with perhaps one of the weaker teams they have fielded this season, but the Potters were terrible. The Red Devils will be plagued by injury yet again this weekend at Stamford Bridge.

    The Blues also have injury problems of their own, but Gary Cahill should get a start—should, but who knows. John Terry is believed fit to return, but that is yet to be finalized.

    Perhaps Fernando Torres can atone for the horrible miss he had at Old Trafford and fire the Blues to victory. Somehow I doubt that will happen.

    Match Prediction: Chelsea 1 - 2 Manchester United

    Predicted Chelsea Starting XI: Petr Cech, David Luiz, John Terry, Gary Cahill, Ashley Cole, Florent Malouda, Oriel Romeu, Juan Mata, Raul Meireles, Fernando Torres, Daniel Sturridge

    Predicted Manchester United Starting XI: Ben Amos, Chris Smalling, Rio Ferdinand, Jonathan Evans, Patrice Evra, Ji-Sung Park, Michael Carrick, Paul Scholes, Antonio Valencia, Dimitar Berbatov, Javier Hernandez

    Players to Watch: Juan Mata and Antonio Valencia

Liverpool vs. Tottenham Hotspur

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    Liverpool suffered perhaps the second-most humiliating defeat of their season when they lost to Tottenham early in the campaign 0-4 at White Hart Lane.

    Reds fans now hope that they can turn the table and take revenge for what was one of the most frustrating days of the season.

    The last three games since their most-humiliating defeat, at Bolton Wanderers, have seen them claim a Carling Cup final place over Manchester Cit, knock Manchester United out of the FA Cup and take a resounding 3-0 victory over Wolverhampton at the Molineux.

    Tottenham themselves have been in fine form and should have taken a point away from Manchester City in their last league fixture two weeks ago.

    After defeating Wigan in midweek and seeing Gareth Bale again show his class, it is hoped that they can steal another three points from the Reds.

    Match Prediction: Liverpool 2 - 1 Tottenham

    Predicted Liverpool Starting XI: Pepe Reina, Glen Johnson, Martin Skrtel, Daniel Agger, Jose Enrique, Jordan Henderson, Charlie Adam, Steven Gerrard, Stewart Downing, Craig Bellamy, Dirk Kuyt

    Predicted Tottenham Hotspur Starting XI: Brad Friedel, Kyle Walker, Yonus Kaboul, Ledley King, Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Sandro, Luka Modric, Aaron Lennon, Gareth Bale, Rafael van der Vaart, Emmanuel Adebayor

    Players to Watch: Craig Bellamy and Gareth Bale

Conclusion

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    A great mid-week of action leads to what should be another great weekend in the EPL.

    Big clubs are playing big clubs, and four of the top six are embroiled in big games that could have a huge effect on their following 14 games.

    It looks like there are some great potential upsets this weekend as well, so lets sit back and enjoy the magic of the beautiful game in the EPL.

    Thanks for reading and be sure to check out more on Bleacher Report and at the links below. You can follow me on Twitter @thedailyatz and Facebook or visit my Website.